Additional COVID-19 variants detected in Virginia

Published 5:48 pm Friday, March 26, 2021

The Virginia Department of Health has found two new variants of COVID-19 in the state. These variants were first detected in California.

The variants were found in 23 cases over the past three months — 14 cases of the B.1427 variant and nine of the B.1429 variant, the state health department’s Department of General Services Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services confirmed in a March 25 news release.

Though no dates were provided for those positive cases, it says there is no evidence that infections with those two variants cause more severe disease. The release also did not identify where in the state the cases involving the new variants came from.
The state lab confirmed the cases through genomic sequencing. Besides the newly-discovered variants, it has identified 26 cases of the B.1.351 variant first identified in South Africa, and 127 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant first discovered in the United Kingdom.

“With the combined state and national surveillance efforts, it is likely that additional cases with SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern will be identified,” according to the release.

The state department of health also said it expects to see new variants of the virus as disease spreads, and it continues to call on residents to mask, distance, avoid crowds and wash hands regularly.

The two variants first detected in California were recently added to CDC’s variants of concern list.

In Suffolk, the seven-day moving average percent positivity for COVID-19 is 8.8%, while Isle of Wight County’s is the highest in Western Tidewater at 10.3%. It is 6.5% in Southampton County and 6.9% in Franklin. Cases in all but Southampton have plateaued or are inching up, while Southampton has consistently been in the single-digits in cases since Feb. 19.

However, testing in Western Tidewater has declined over the past two months. In January, the district averaged 544.8 tests per day. That average has gone down to 324,8 tests per day in March, a decline of more than 40%.

Currently, the state lab is doing limited testing for the variants, sequencing just 100 to 150 per week, though it says it hopes to triple that in the next four to six months.